Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Daddy’s Home 2

“Mom and Dad” and “The Florida Project” are also new to Blu-Ray this week. 

It’s rare in movies that a sequel outshines its predecessor. “Daddy’s Home 2” is one of those rare times.

Co-dads Brad (Will Ferrell) and Dusty (Mark Wahlberg) are back, as are their wives, Sara (Linda Cardellini) and Karen (Alessandra Ambrosio), respectively. This family wouldn’t be complete without the kids, so Dylan (Owen Wilder Vaccaro), Megan (Scarlett Estevez), and Adriana (Didi Costine) are back as well. Whose kid belongs to who was a bit confusing in the beginning, since I didn’t remember the 2015 original all that well, but by the end of the movie I think I got it. The only one I knew for sure from the beginning was baby Griffy, played in the movie by three baby siblings whose last name is Wise. He’s the son of Brad and Sara. The rest need to be figured out from context if, like me, you’re a bit lost in the beginning.

It would have been one thing to reunite the cast and go through the same motions again, but “Daddy’s Home 2” ups the ante by this time including the fathers of the fathers. We meet Kurt (Mel Gibson), Dusty’s tough, harsh, derisive dad. We also meet Don (John Lithgow), Brad’s overly talkative, sickeningly sweet, overly affectionate dad. To say that these two are polar opposites is an understatement. With them, it’s like taking Brad and Dusty and magnifying their personality differences times 100. At least Brad and Dusty have some common ground with the kids. All Kurt and Don have is the fact that they’re dads of co-dads.

Mel Gibson has shown a humorous side in previous movies, but never really let it flourish. Even in a romantic comedy like “What Women Want,” he played more or less the straight man to whom things were happening. In “Daddy’s Home 2,” he gets to let loose and is very funny. His comic timing and line delivery is impeccable, complemented by the fact that half the time he has a sly grin on his face. This is a side of Gibson we have only seen glimpses of in the past, and it’s refreshing to see him be so consistently funny.

On the other hand, considering Lithgow’s career, we know he can be funny. We also know that he can play a great sinister villain with the rest of the black hat wearing, mustache-twirling, psychotic baddies on the big or small screen. With Don, we get a little bit of both Lithgows. Since “Daddy’s Home 2” is a comedy, his antics are played for laughs. However, his constant need to talk and his obsession with being liked is a bit disturbing—just in a different way than in movies past. So no, he’s not the deranged, split personality killer we see in a movie like “Raising Cain” (a criminally underrated Brian De Palma suspense tale from 1992), but there is something off about him. In real life, most people would find someone like this annoying, but digging deeper than that, it doesn’t take a shrink to see that he clearly has some major issues.

It helps in an ensemble comedy when the cast has great chemistry and clearly enjoys working together. That looks to be the case with “Daddy’s Home 2.” The joy that the actors have on screen carries through to the audience, which in turn makes the movie a joy to watch. Buy it on Amazon: Daddy's Home 2 [Blu-ray].

Also New This Week

Mom and Dad

This movie should be re-titled “How to Waste 80 Minutes of Your Life.” We’re only a month and a half into 2018 and we already have what is sure to be considered one of the worst movies of the year—if anyone remembers it ten months from now. I know I want to forget it as soon as possible.

“Mom and Dad” stars Nicolas Cage and Selma Blair as Brent and Kendall Ryan, the parents of teenage Carly (Anne Winters) and her younger brother Josh (Zackary Arthur). Every description you’ll read about the movie states that they must survive “a wild 24 hours during which a mass hysteria of unknown origins causes parents to turn violently on their own kids.” Perhaps there is another cut of this movie in which it’s made clear that there is a 24 hour time limit on the madness. This was not made clear at all in the existing cut. As far as I know, this movie is like (or wishes it was like) Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds,” only except for birds inexplicably attacking people, it’s parents attacking their own children.

The failure of this movie rests solely with writer-director Brian Taylor, who bricked it with both of his jobs. Writing-wise, the structure of this movie is terrible. After an intriguing ‘70s style opening, we pretty much get right into the violent parent on child action. Some of it is kind of entertaining in a shocking sort of way. Once the action of the movie gets more centralized on the Ryan family, the narrative falls apart. Right in the middle of the suspense and drama, we get completely pointless and unnecessary flashbacks. The longest one involves a pool table, Brent’s mid-life crisis, and soliloquies from both parents about how their lives turned out. Like we care. We’re invested in the action and whether or not the kids can successfully outwit and survive the attacks by their parents. We’re treated to three other action-interrupting flashbacks on top of this one, and the only one that made sense plus was even remotely relevant or entertaining is one that details how Josh came into possession of his father’s hand gun. The rest are infuriatingly intrusive and only serve to pad the run time.

Nicolas Cage can be a good actor. However, his instinct to go over the top and play it to the rafters needs to be reined in by a director who can steer him toward a middle ground where he is still being expressive without being self-indulgent. Taylor is not that director. Cage is like sugar addict at an all you can eat candy buffet. His gesticulations are wild, many of his words are over-emphasized, and he literally barks like a dog while chasing his son around. I can only guess that Taylor told Cage to chase the boy around like he was a rabid dog, Cage took it literally, and Taylor did nothing to correct him. I can also imagine that this exchange took place on set as well:

CAGE: Hey Bri—it would be awesome if after I got up from the explosion, I had some Froot Loops stuck to the side of my face.
TAYLOR: Sure, Nic—that’s an awesome idea!

So that happened. Ugh. All of this might not have been as bad if the ending had in any way been good. Or at least decent. Or even if it was as bad as the rest of the movie, but in a consistent, respectable way. It is none of the above. I kid you not when I say that the ending of “Mom and Dad” is the single worst movie ending I have ever seen in my entire life. Words like “abrupt” and “unsatisfying” barely convey how inept it is. And trust me when I tell you that the weight of that statement is huge because I have seen a lot of movies. I only wish I hadn’t seen this one. For the love of all things good and sacred in this world, Skip it!

The Florida Project

“The Florida Project” follows the story of Moonee, a mischievous six year-old girl living with her mother Halley (Bria Vinaite) at the Magic Castle motel in Kissimmee, Florida, which is near the Disney parks. The manager of the hotel is a stern but benevolent man named Bobby (Willem Dafoe), who tries to maintain order and respectability despite the best efforts of the guests who live at the hotel to act trashy and cause trouble.

Dafoe earned a well-deserved supporting actor Oscar nomination this year for his performance as Bobby. He is truly the heart and soul of the movie. Bobby is decent, kind, and protective of not only the adults, who he tries to help, but also of the children. One pulse-pounding scene involves a man named Charlie (Carl Bradfield), who is suspiciously wandering around where all of the children are playing. Luckily, Bobby is outside doing some painting and he takes notice. The way he handles the situation with Charlie is masterful, and the tension escalates in the scene at just the right velocity. This is the scene that makes it clear that no matter how much trouble these folks cause for Bobby, he doesn’t want to see any harm come to them.

The rest of the movie is a bit harder to watch, and mainly consists of trashy people doing trashy things. Halley getting upset at Charlie and sticking her used sanitary pad on the glass door to his office is a particularly memorable moment that shows just how low brow and classless these people are. Still, these are people, the movie treats them as such, and much like Bobby, the movie does its best to find the decency and humanity in them. It may buried deep and hard to find, but it’s there. Rent it.

More New Releases: “The Star,” in which a small but brave donkey and his animal friends become the unsung heroes of the first Christmas, featuring the voice talents of Ving Rhames, Kristin Chenoweth, Keegan-Michael Key, and Christopher Plummer; “Same Kind of Different as Me,” about a modern-day slave, an international art dealer, and the unlikely woman who bound them together, starring Renée Zellweger, Jon Voight, Djimon Hounsou, and Greg Kinnear; and “Gate II: Return to the Nightmare,” this 1990 sequel is another rarity for being moderately better than the 1987 original—but that bar is set pretty low.

Andrew Hudak is a lifelong film lover. His column on Blu-Ray new releases appears every Tuesday. He lives in Connecticut.

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